Swiss pharma company Novartis has inked an option and license agreement with Molecular Partners to develop, manufacture and commercialise the latter’s anti-COVID-19 DARPin programme.

The platform includes two therapeutic candidates – MP0420 MP0423. The collaboration will aim to use Molecular Partners’ DARPin technologies coupled with Novartis’ broad expertise in global drug development, regulatory affairs, manufacturing and commercialisation to advance the programme.

Molecular Partners is developing a new class of custom-built protein therapeutics, dubbed DARPin therapeutics.

Under the agreement with Novartis, Molecular Partners will conduct phase I trials for MP0420, which are expected to begin in November 2020, and perform all preclinical work for MP0423. Novartis will then conduct phase II and phase III clinical trials, with Molecular Partners set to sponsor the studies.

If Novartis exercises its option for the candidates, the Swiss pharma will be responsible for all further development and commercialisation activities. The companies will work together to scale-up manufacturing capacity, in collaboration with Novartis’ generics division Sandoz, to provide worldwide supply.

Molecular will receive an upfront payment of CHF60m from Novartis, as well as a further CHIF150m upon Novartis electing to take up the option to both therapeutic candidates.

“Novartis remains unwavering in its support for tackling COVID-19 and it is clear that this pandemic calls for not just scientific solutions, but also for collaboration between companies to provide treatments in an area of high unmet need,” aid Vas Narasimhan, Chief Executive Officer of Novartis.

“This Swiss led partnership, which could deliver both prophylactic and treatment options at scale for COVID-19 patients across the globe, is another demonstration of our sustained commitment to addressing one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” he added.